Arab Rights Activist Hatam Morammezi Dead After One Year of Detention in Iran
Family Threatened to Stay Silent About the Case, Which Marks Sixth Death in Custody in Iran in Last Five Months
After a year in detention in Iran, 20-year-old Arab rights advocate Hatam Morammezi has been pronounced dead to his family in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan Province, his cousin Faisal Morammezi told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on June 6, 2018.
“Hatam’s father and brother were summoned to the Intelligence Ministry’s office in Ahvaz on June 5 and after a lot of questioning, they were told, ‘your son is dead’ without any evidence or death certificate,” said Faisal Morammezi, who lives in the UK.
“When asked when the body would be handed over to the family, the authorities said they would bury him themselves but they would not say where,” he added.
Faisal Morammezi added that his family in Iran has been threatened to stay silent about the case.
“Hatam’s father and brother have been warned that if any family members, even those living abroad, give interviews, they will be held responsible,” he said.
“That means they could be summoned and harassed because of my interview with you,” he added.
“But we cannot stay silent,” he said. “The least we can do is tell others about what has happened so that the authorities provide more information about the cause of death or where he has been buried.”
Born and raised in the city of Susangerd, 40 miles west of Ahvaz, Hatam Morammezi was previously twice arrested for advocating for the rights of Khuzestan’s ethnic Arab population. He was last detained on June 12, 2017, and had since been denied contact with his family.
“Hatam was a passionate young man. He participated in various protests in Khuzestan Province,” Faisal Morammezi told CHRI. “When he was arrested last June, he was practically kidnapped and disappeared. His relatives went everywhere looking for him but none of the authorities took responsibility for his arrest.”
Faisal Morammezi added that in 2013, two other Arab activists—Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Shabaninejad—disappeared in a similar fashion and were executed with their gravesites concealed to their families by the authorities.
Khuzestan’s Arab population suffers from economic hardship, disproportionate levels of unemployment, and discrimination.
The multiple deaths of detainees under highly suspicious circumstances in Iran since January 2018 have raised concerns among human rights groups regarding the fatal ill treatment of people taken into custody there.
At least five people held on politically motivated charges have died in custody in Iran since January.
In all of the cases, the families have been pressured to quickly bury their loved ones and told not to speak publicly about their cases. The authorities have also refused to allow independent autopsies or investigations.